Franklin Fire District 3 forms committee to look at ambulance options

By Michelle Dupler, Tri-City HeraldMarch 1, 2013 

Franklin Fire District 3 officials are getting help from a handful of citizens to decide what kind of ambulance service the district should provide -- and how to pay for it.

District officials at a community meeting this week formed a steering committee of four people. They will weigh the possibilities of trying again to pass an emergency medical services (EMS) levy or raising the existing fire levy in what's known as a "lid lift" vote.

Fire Chief Les Litzenberger said an EMS levy is a more attractive option because it would be less prone to fluctuation as property is annexed out of the district and into Pasco.

But an EMS levy requires approval from 60 percent of voters, and the district couldn't overcome that hurdle when it tried to pass a levy in November. A lid lift requires only a simple majority, Litzenberger said.

The district has wrestled with how to pay for ambulance service since learning in mid-2012 that Pasco intended to raise the price for the city ambulance service provided to fire district residents.

After the levy failed, the district decided it could not afford even a discounted service offered by Pasco, and chose to go on its own when the contract with the city expired a month ago.

The district since has acquired ambulances and is providing basic life support through volunteer emergency medical technicians.

"Basic life support" means EMTs can do things like give someone CPR, use an automatic external defibrillator, give a diabetic person glucagon when they're suffering from low blood sugar, or give someone with chest pains a dose of baby aspirin. They can't perform medical procedures or dispense drugs.

District officials have said they won't be able to pay the cost of providing even basic service beyond 2013.

The next community meeting on ambulance service is at 7 p.m. March 13 at the Columbia Grange Hall at Road 64 and Court Street.

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